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Tesfaye ’16 Chosen as Knight-Hennessy Scholar at Stanford


Tsion Tesfaye ’16 has been selected as a Knight-Hennessy Scholar at Stanford University. Knight-Hennessy Scholars receive full funding for graduate study at Stanford. The program aims to develop an interdisciplinary community of future global leaders to address the world’s most complex challenges through collaboration and innovation.

Tesfaye, from Holeta, Ethiopia, is pursuing a master’s degree in statistics (data science track) at Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences. She graduated from Hamilton with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a minor in education studies.

“Knight-Hennessy is a critical piece in my career journey. Since a young age, I have been passionate about large scale impact,” said Tesfaye. 

Tesfaye aspires to better her community by creating an interdisciplinary institute that utilizes data science and design thinking to build innovative systems for governments and purpose-driven private companies.

“The KH network is the ideal opportunity to actualize this dream,” she said.  “KH will connect me with a cohort of driven individuals who are experts in their respective fields. Together, we will undoubtedly come up with innovative solutions to address the root causes of persistent social problems.

“During this journey, we will be supported by KH mentors such as Miriam Rivera who are trailblazers in different fields and have left their footprints in the world,” Tesfaye said. “In short, KH is the full package needed to nurture interdisciplinary problem solvers of tomorrow.”

Tesfaye was a design thinking subject matter expert at Hamilton’s Levitt Leadership Institute, an entrepreneurial leadership teaching fellow at the African Leadership Academy in South Africa, and a project manager at CareEpilepsy Ethiopia. She also received a Levitt Social Innovation Fellowship through which she founded Youth for Ethiopia to mentor high school students.

Tesfaye presented her Youth for Ethiopia project at the Clinton Global Initiative University in 2016, as well as social innovation conferences and trainings in Austria, Japan, Rwanda, and the U.S.

In its second year, Knight-Hennessy program received 4,424 applications, an increase of 23 percent from 2018.  The 2019 cohort includes citizens of 20 countries who will pursue degrees in 37 programs at Stanford.

Phil Knight, Stanford MBA ’62 provided the founding gift to the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program. He was excited by the opportunity to partner with Stanford to launch a transformative program and wished to honor John Hennessy’s 16-year tenure as president of Stanford University. Co-founder and Chairman emeritus of Nike, Inc., Knight wrote his business plan for Nike while a graduate student at Stanford. He has since been actively engaged at the university and a generous contributor to its programs.

John Hennessy, the 10th president of Stanford, is the academic architect and visionary behind the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program. Building upon the major academic initiatives advanced during his presidency, Hennessy sought to create an enduring and unmatched education program that would have significant impact on global challenges in the 21st century and beyond. 

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